Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Science, Technology and Society

Second Department

French Studies

Reader 1

Professor Gabriela Morales

Reader 2

Professor Annelle Curulla

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Rights Information

© 2023 Marina S Riad


The introduction of desalination technology to the water network in Dakar, Senegal marks a monumental change in how state and commercial interests aim to solve systemic problems using novel technologies. Desalination aims to transform the ocean surrounding Dakar into potable water, a vital resource in the growing metropolis. However, this desalination project must integrate itself within a network of social, historical, political, commercial, and ecological influences shaping the role of desalination in urban Dakar. With millions of dollars and an entire ocean mobilized towards solving Dakar’s water problems, it may come as a surprise that this project will only provide water for around 5% of Dakar at its fullest capacity. Borrowing a term from STS scholar Bruno Latour, I aim to find the “missing masses”, the puzzle piece that makes sense of this small-scale project with such a large-scale institutional effort. The publicity surrounding this project assigns it intangible values that address cultural insecurities, and this project ultimately represents more change than it enacts. However, these are not the only “missing masses” in this network: the masses themselves, the Dakarois public who stand to benefit from this public works project, are largely missing from the influences shaping this desalination project. This project occupies a beach that has historically served local and autochthonous communities as a hub of culture, recreation, and commerce. Ultimately, this thesis aims to center relationships and people in a project that has been largely decontextualized and de-peopled by the institutional power surrounding it.